Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Naso
To dedicate this lesson

Our Arms Vs. Their Arms

One of the most ancient, & certainly one of the most beautiful prayers in the Jewish liturgy is the Birkat Kohanim. In just 15 words, Hashem - via the Kohanim - promises us knowledge, wealth, security, Peace & an eternal relationship with Him. What more could anyone ask for?

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Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Sivan 9 5781
One of the most ancient, & certainly one of the most beautiful prayers in the Jewish liturgy is the Birkat Kohanim, the "Y'varech'cha," which highlights our Sedra. In just 15 words, Hashem - via the Kohanim - promises us knowledge, wealth, security, Peace & an eternal relationship with Him. What more could anyone ask for?

Several technical details of the way the Kohanim deliver this Bracha add an even deeper message:

* The Kohanim must face the people as they deliver the blessing, though this means that they have to turn their backs on the Aron Kodesh & the Sefer Torah. This teaches us that if you want to really communicate with another person, if you want to relate to them in a dignified manner, then face them & focus on them (rather than your cellphone!)

* When delivering the Bracha, the Kohain lifts his arms towards the people, opening his hands & fingers. This symbolizes that he (and of course Hashem) embrace the nation with open arms, & their hands are open to give to all. The open-hand gesture - like the handshake or wave which shows we carry no weapon - symbolizes openness & friendship - as opposed to the clenched fist, which is a sign of selfishness & enmity.

* This Mitzva stands alone as having a Bracha which commands the Kohanim to pronounce their blessing "with love." In fact, the very last word of the bracha is "ahava." This teaches us that a blessing is no blessing unless it is given in love, & that a Mitzva is not a Mitzva unless it is performed with love. The word Ahava derives from the word "hav," to give, & has the numerical value of 13, the same as "Echad" - one.

This teaches us that, in essence, loving is giving, & that the end result of showing love is that we will establish a oneness, a commonality, a unity with those to whom we show love.

The Kohanim were the former leaders of our people. The lessons of the Birkat Kohanim should not be lost on any person who today aspires to lead Am Yisrael: Focus on others, welcome them with open arms, & let all your actions generate from a genuine love of your fellow Jew.
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